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Karekin I

©Archbishop Karekin Sarkissian, 1960, Faith Press, London

1974, A Michael Barour Publication, USA






Dedicated to the American-Armenian Youth

As a Token of My Love And My Pastoral Concern

With The Hope of Enhancing Their Understanding

of Our Spiritual and Cultural Heritage












1. Translation of the Holy Scriptures

2. Translation of Liturgies

3. Translation of the Patristic Literature



1. The Main Branches

2. Individual Writers









. . . The Armenian, at one time almost forgotten,

has reappeared in contemporary existence.

his past, his present, and his future

constitute so many subjects of study;

and the world has come to interest herself

in this ancient race which,

through the centuries

and under the most cruel vicissitudes,

has never ceased to give proof

of its inexhaustible vitality.


Patriarch Malachia Ormanian,

The Church of Armenia, 1910







THE present booklet is based on a paper which I read in S. Edmund Hall, Oxford, in the Trinity Term, 1958, at a meeting of the Oxford Branch of the Fellowship of S. Alban and S. Sergius.


The text has remained almost unchanged. It reflects very clearly the characteristics of a talk rather than an exposition.


The idea of its publication was too far from my mind when I prepared the talk. And its present appearance in print certainly cannot do full justice to the nature of the theme discussed in it. In fact, it is simply impossible to compress such a huge amount of material into such a tiny space.


However, there were three reasons which seemed to me to justify its publication in the present form. Firstly, the urgent suggestions of some friends could not be disregarded or resisted. Secondly, there was hardly anything in English on this subject. Thirdly, more important than the first two, I thought that English students of Theology and Church History could find in it a first help in enlarging their knowledge of Christian Literature. It is not difficult at all to notice that the study of the Christian Literature generally is confined to its Graeco-Roman region. Although this is the major stream of Christian tradition especially in connection with Western Christendom, none-the-less, it would not be unimportant to know also of other streams comparatively of smaller importance but surely of distinct character and value. I thought also that this booklet could be equally of some help to the young generation of Armenians who are born or live in English-speaking countries, namely, in the United States of America. To many of them who are sincerely interested in the history of their Church and Nation this booklet may serve as a hint to the literary aspect of their Christian culture.


It was for this third reason that the footnotes were added to the original text, first, to substantiate some of the statements made therein and, secondly, to point to further reading for those who might be interested in the subject with a deeper concern. The bibliographical data is chosen from the literature extant in foreign languages.


This is, therefore, an 'Introduction' in the strictest sense of the term. In other words, a kind of preliminary treatise on a vast and richly varied subject. It may serve, I hope, as the basis for a study on a larger scale. The difficulties which I felt at- almost every step of this study were, basically, twofold: firstly, the natural temptation of generalization which could not be avoided and, secondly, the selection which had to be made on almost every page of this paper. The indulgence of my readers can be the only excuse for the gaps I left and the deficiencies which resulted from such difficulties.


I must thank Mr. John Chalikian who out of his love for the Armenian culture generously contributed towards the publication of this booklet. My thanks are due also to Revd. A. M. Allchin, M.A., B.LITT. (OXON) who read the manuscript through and made countless suggestions for the improvement of the English expression: and finally to the Revd. C. S. C, Williams, Chaplain of Merton College, Oxford, for his Foreword.






June 18th, 1959

On the day of the Holy Translators SS. Sahak and Mashtots



"Christianity in Armenia adopted a national garb from the first... The Bible was translated into the Armenian language, in a new native script specially invented for the purpose, and this achievement was followed by a great out- burst of .national literature during the course of the fifth century."

—Arnold J. Toynbee








SOME seventy years ago an Anglican chaplain, A. Saunders Dyer, in the city of Calcutta, while vehemently protesting in a letter addressed to the editor of The Guardian against a statement charging the Armenian Church with the heresy of Eutyches, yet confessed that in his own parish, in India, the same kind of false impression was quite common among many Anglicans, and that there was a widespread ignorance noticeable both with the Armenians and Anglicans as to each other’s Christian tradition. “The ignorance,” he wrote, “displayed by the Armenians, concerning the Church of England is very great; but I think the English ignorance of the Church of Armenia is greater. Only the other day I was trying to interest a lady member of the Church of England “a communicant” in the Armenian Church, and she asked the question: “And do the Armenians believe in our Lord Jesus Christ?” 1


But now, obviously, this ignorance has passed on to history. I am sure that times are changed. The twentieth century has marked, indeed, a considerable advance in the way of mutual understanding. So there is no need for me to tell you that the Armenians are Christians - many of you would know even what sort of Christians they are! - by recounting the story of their Christian life in the past or at the present time. What I do intend to do is again to say that they are Christians, but to say it in a different way; not by describing their Christianity or their history directly, but by trying to give you a picture - however schematical it may be - of their achievements in the field of Christian Literature.


What is the place of the Armenian Christian literature in that vast field of Christian literary tradition which is so closely related to the whole civilization of mankind and has so deeply affected its life in the past centuries?


This is the question to which I will try to give an answer in this paper, inadequate and incomplete though it must be within the limits of a single lecture.


I chose this method of telling you something of the Armenian witness to Christ, because this literary aspect of the Christian tradition of the Armenians is often overlooked, owing to their tragic history especially in its latest phase during the first two decades of the present century. That history, in fact, has created a widespread and quite dominant impression of them as being a constantly persecuted, intermittently massacred and permanently suffering people. As Adrian Fortescue, a Roman Catholic historian of Eastern Christianity, puts it in a rather striking expression: “their very name suggests horrors and blood.” 2 Or, as Archdale King in his study of the “Rites of Eastern Christendom” says in a slightly different context: “The history of Armenia makes sad reading.” 3 Though one may easily see the glorious aspect of Christian martyrdom in these massacres, as the Armenians themselves do, none-the-less, it would be wrong and unjust to think of them as being everything in Armenian Christianity. There are other achievements of this Church which are, indeed, worthy of deep concern and genuine appreciation by the Christian Church as a whole, as well as by the particular branches or bodies in that Church.


And one of these achievements is, undoubtedly, the Armenian Literature which, in its own way, is a living witness to the Christian faith made by this people so often forgotten or ignored.


*  *  *


Let me first say what the limits of my paper are so that the subject of this talk may be clearly understood and placed in its proper context.


By “Armenian Christian Literature” here I understand everything written in the Armenian language, excluding the pre-Christian period and the non-religious domains of Armenian literature. Therefore, it must not be thought that the whole of the Armenian literature is being pictured or discussed here; although one is fully justified in thinking that the predominant aspect of the Armenian literature being Christian it follows that we have here the Armenian literature in its truest and best picture both in size and in depth, in quantity and quality, to use the ordinary expression.


Another limitation to the content of this paper comes from my intention to confine this talk to the literature of that period which lies between the fifth and the fourteenth centuries of Armenian Christian history; simply because there we have the most valuable part, the kernel of the Classical


The best way to put this huge amount of literature in an intelligible form, and within all the restrictions of such a short paper as this, is I think to divide it into two parts which are, by their very nature, quite distinct from each other:


(1) The Armenian Translations, in which we will try to show the general Christian literature, more specifically the Patristic Tradition, as echoed and preserved in the Armenian language and tradition.


(2) The Original Literature, which sprang up from that transplantation of the Christian literature in Armenia where it was given a shape of a national character and gradually took color from the historical experience of the Armenian Church and nation.


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THE term “translation” as understood today - a very current technical means of rendering some books or articles from one language into another - cannot give us the full meaning which the word has in its historical setting in the case of the Armenian literature. This may be seen clearly through the following picture which gives us the mere sketch of the results of these translations:




1. Translation of the Holy Scriptures


The revolutionary age in the Armenian history is not the fourth century which was opened in Armenia with the official acceptance of Christianity as the “established” religion of the country and the State (sometime between A.D. 278 and 313). 5 Although this is the greatest moment, the turning point of the Armenian history, it did not, in fact, very much affect the life of the people as a whole. It was an official, formal conversion which needed the deepening of Christian faith and practice in the life of the nation. 6


And this was only possible by means of direct access to and constant communication with the sources or the fountains of the Christian fait - The Holy Scriptures. A Church without the Bible in the hands of her faithful could not stand very long and very firm in the midst of a pagan world. The Armenian Church Fathers were deeply conscious of the pressing necessity, of the absolute urgency of the translation of the Bible into Armenian. But the instrument - the Armenian alphabet - was lacking. 7 So it was in the beginning of the fifth century when a Church divine, S. Mesrop Mashtots, succeeded in inventing an alphabet adequate to render in writing ail the subtleties of the pronunciation 8 that the great work of translation followed under the wise guidance of S. Sahak, the learned Catholicos of the time. It was soon completed through the enthusiastic collaboration of the Church divines - Vardapets - the disciples and assistants of the two great saints. The translation was first made from a Syriac version. But later, in the middle of the thirties of the century, it underwent a radical and detailed revision on the basis of a Greek – Septuagint - text which was brought from Constantinople by Armenian students who were completing their philosophical, theological and biblical studies in the imperial city . This new text had been considered as a more accurate and trustworthy copy than the Syriac version. The revision was such a radical and thorough one that the result was almost a new retranslation following the Septuagint Canon.


It would take a big volume or a series of articles to study the various textual and historical problems involved in this translation. Again, it would take long pages to describe the stimulus and the permanent results of this version in Armenian history and literature. But what cannot be omitted is to point out that it meant for the Armenian people an entire transfiguration or transformation - if these expressions may be allowed - which was felt not only in the fifth century, but also in the succeeding centuries. In order to make this point more intelligible and clearer I draw your attention to a comparison between the Armenian Version and the Latin Vulgate by quoting the words of a great Armenian scholar and historian, N. Adontz: The Latin Vulgate, he writes, “did not have the same importance to the Latin countries as the Armenian Bible to the Armenian people. The Latin literature had been in existence for a long time when the Vulgate appeared; whereas the Armenian Bible inaugurated the beginnings of a new era in which the Armenian people learning for the first time the use of the pen came to take their place in the world of

human civilization.” 9


What is the textual value of this translation?


It is difficult for me to say. Biblical scholars and armenologists can give us a much more accurate appreciation of its textual value.


F. C. Conybeare, the well-known English scholar and a distinguished armenologist, was deeply convinced of the high value of the Armenian translation. Speaking of the Old Testament he says: “For beauty of diction and accuracy of rendering the Armenian cannot be surpassed. The genius of the language is such as to admit a translation of any Greek document both literal and graceful; true to the order of the Greek, and even reflecting its compound words, yet without being slavish, and without violence to its own idiom. We are seldom in doubt as to what stood in the Armenian’s Greek text; therefore his version has almost the same value for us as the Greek text itself, from which he worked, would possess. The same criticism is true of the Armenian New Testament as well.” 10


A recent study in the text of the Armenian version, done in a most thorough and masterly fashion, has confirmed the above statement. This time an Estonian scholar in exile, Arthur Voobus, professor at the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary, has made an exhaustive investigation into the Armenian version in his imposing work, Early Versions of the New Testament. He tells us that “The ancient translators and revisers found this idiom (i.e. the Armenian language) to be an excellent instrument. To be sure, the Armenian language is poorer with regard to some verbal forms, and which are substituted by others; it is also poorer as to the particles and participles, but it has many advantages. It has three definite articles; it displays a great freedom in word-order, in some respects its flexibility surpassing even that of the Greek. This means that this elegant language was a good instrument enabling the revisers to render the Greek text as exactly as possible into classical Armenian.


“It is remarkable that the version shows more respect for the exact meaning of a word in a certain context than for a slavish and stereotyped translation.


“Therefore, all in all, as Conybeare once said, “for beauty of diction and accuracy of rendering the Armenian cannot be surpassed.” Much earlier M. de la Croze called it “the Queen of the Versions” certainly not undeservedly, and certainly not without keen competition.” 11


This is the reason, I believe, why the Armenian version is usually classified in the same category of Bible texts as the Syriac and Latin versions. In some ways it surpasses them, especially for the accuracy in rendering the original meaning of the text. It is taken into consideration in the second edition of the Greek New Testament recently published by the British and Foreign Bible Society “with revised critical apparatus,” London, 1958. 12


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2. Translation of Liturgies


The translation of the Holy Scriptures was only one of the phases - though the most important of all - of that great movement of assimilation of the richness of the Christian tradition, taken in its integrity, which characterized so singularly the fifth-century Armenian culture.


Besides the word of God, there was the experience of it as lived by the whole and one body of Christ’s Church through the various ways of Christian worship. The third, but especially the fourth century marked the spiritual growth of the Church through the emergence and expansion of Liturgies, feasts and other ceremonies, and through all the elaboration and enrichment of the pattern of Christian worship.


This part of Christian tradition also echoed in Armenia through the translation of the various Liturgies composed by Church Fathers, and used in the local churches in the different provinces and countries of the Byzantine Empire. Thus, the Liturgies of S. James, S. Ignatius of Antioch, S. Athanasius, S. Gregory of Nazianzus, S. Basil the Great, S. John Chrysostom, S. Cyril of Alexandria were translated into Armenian. It was in the general pattern of these Liturgies that the Armenian was shaped. The final result was a harmonious combination of elements taken particularly from the Liturgies of S. Athanasius, S. Basil the Great and S. John Chrysostom. There were additions of prayers composed by Armenian Church Fathers. Later, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, there were some influences from the Roman Missal brought by the Roman missionaries accompanying the Crusaders. Since then the Armenian Liturgy has remained almost unchanged. 13


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3. Translation of the Patristic Literature


Here we have a highly impressive picture of Patristic literature where the Armenian tradition is at its best.


It is needless to say what place and significance this Patristic literature had in the thought and life of the early Church. Its whole intellectual and spiritual vitality and richness were poured into the Armenian Church through the intensive activity of translation during the fifth century, 14 which, in its turn, gave a creative impulse to the thought and life of the newly christianized people of Armenia.


The following selective list of Church Fathers whose works were partly or integrally translated into Armenian speaks of itself eloquently and has no need for comment, since it may give you, in this bare form, an idea of the extent of the literary achievements of this century in the field of translations:


Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 - c. 107).

Aristides the Apologist (second century).

Irenaeus of Lyons (c.- c. 200).

Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170- c. 236).

Dionysius of Alexandria (d. c. 264).

Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213 - c. 270).

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260 - c. 340).

Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296-373).

Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389).

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 330- c. 395).

Basil the Great (c. 330-379).

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386).

John Chrysostom (c. 347-407).

Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 315-403).

Evagrius Ponticus (346-399).

Aphraates (fourth century).

Ephraim Syrus (c. 306-373).

Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444).


Besides these Church Fathers there were others also whose works were translated into Armenian, particularly some works of Origen, others ascribed to Apollinarius and also works of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia. But during the later controversies many of these translations were either destroyed or discarded after being suspected of heresy or condemned as such. That is the reason why we know of them only through references in other authors or through partly survived scanty fragments.


Now the impact of these translations was not confined solely to the intellectual and spiritual enrichment of the Armenian Church Fathers and divines themselves. As might be expected they also gave rise to an original literature which had its own successful career in the course of the later centuries as we shall see a little farther on.


Moreover, apart from their historical significance and influence, these translations have also a practical value relevant to the present time. It lies mainly in the domain of Patristic scholarship of today. Here the Armenian translations offer quite a considerable contribution to the textual study of the Church Fathers.


And this in two ways:


(a) By the sheer comparison of the Armenian versions with the original Greek or Syriac texts. Sometimes in them the original texts have been preserved in a less altered, therefore in a more accurate and faithful, form, owing to the fact that they were translated in such an early period as the fifth century. Thus, in many cases, the Armenian versions have cast light on passages or chapters or even books which have suffered later alterations, abbreviations or loss in their original texts.


(b) It is well known that the Patristic literature has undergone a great deal of damage with the loss of entire works or books of many Church Fathers. The names of those lost books have survived and come down to us mostly through references to them or through citations from them preserved in various writings of Church Fathers and in the historical treatises such as the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius or in the Photius’ Bibliotheca , or elsewhere.


Now, some of these writings have been preserved in their Armenian translations; and thus, as the original texts are not available, the Armenian versions replace them and, therefore, Patristic scholars are given the fortunate possibility of studies on a larger field than the existing original texts would allow.


In order to illustrate this statement I would draw your attention to three particular cases of such discoveries chosen from among others:


(1) The work of Aristides of Athens which usually has been known under the name of “Apology” was long considered lost. But to the glad surprise of scholars the Mekhitarists of San Lazaro in Venice published in 1878 a manuscript of the tenth century, an Armenian fragment of an Apology bearing the title, “To Imperator Adrianus Caesar from the Athenian Philosopher Aristides.” The majority of the scholars accepted the fragment as the remains of an Armenian translation of Aristides” Apology mentioned by Eusebius” (Eccl. Hist., Bk. IV, ch. 3). 15


(2) Again for the first time the Chronicle of Eusebius was made available to Patristic scholars through an Armenian version discovered in the beginning of the nineteenth century and translated into Latin. “The first part of the Chronicle,” writes Bardenhewer, “was unknown to us until the publication of the Armenian version. The Greek text of both parts has perished, save for some fragments.” 16


(3) But the most striking example is the discovery of some writings of S. Irenaeus of Lyons, whose works seem to have been largely preserved in the Armenian translations. Thus, many fragments- thirty-two in number -were published and translated into German in 19 13. 17 Also the fourth and fifth books of his famous Adversus Haereses have been found in a very accurate translation necessarily to be compared with the existing Greek text. 18 But, above all, the entire treatise called “The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching” otherwise known only by its title as mentioned by Eusebius 19 was discovered in an Armenian version in 1907 by Karapet Ter-Mekerttschian, an eminent Armenian scholar, and edited with a German translation. 20 It was received with a warm welcome in the circles of Patristic studies being translated into Latin, 21 a second time into German , 22 three times into English , 23 into French , 24 Russian , 25 Italian , 26 and Dutch . 27


It is impossible, in the scope of this paper, to include everything that is to be found in the Armenian tradition of Patristic literature. The three cases mentioned above are given as mere examples to illustrate what I only hinted at, i.e. the importance of the Armenian translations for the Patristic scholarship of to-day.


But I think it is necessary to add that what is already discovered is not as significant in this respect as what may be yet discovered. I must confess that the study of the Armenian manuscripts is at present far from being completed. On the contrary, besides all the research already made, the Armenian manuscripts constitute a vast field of a literature that has not yet been thoroughly investigated in terms of scientific method and coordinated study. Particularly unexplored are the Patristic texts. The number of the Armenian manuscripts is reckoned at roughly twenty thousand, most of them now being gathered and scientifically classified in the National Library of the Armenian Republic in U.S.S.R . 28 Other important collections are to be found in the Armenian monastery of S. James in Jerusalem 29 and also in the well-known sister monasteries of the Armenian Uniate Brotherhoods commonly called Mekhitarist Communities in Venice and Vienna . 30 Smaller collections may be found in the Armenian monastery of the Holy Saviour, in Nor-Djougha, Isfahan (Persia), in the Library of the Armenian Catholicossate of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon, in the Armenian Uniate monastery of Bzommar in Lebanon, and in the various European and American Libraries, namely in the Bibliotheque Nationale de Paris, the British Museum in London, or the Bodleian Library here, in Oxford. There are a few other manuscripts owned by individuals or cultural institutions. 31


The reason why we were so categorical in the above statement is not purely a hypothetical one. In fact, a careful and searching look at the catalogues of the Armenian manuscripts justifies us in our assurance. I take as an example the following case. In a catalogue of the Armenian translations compiled long ago, in 1889, by a learned member of the Mekhitarist Community in Venice, entitled Library of Ancient Armenian Translations , already referred to, there is a great number of indications of homilies or fragments attributed to Church Fathers in the Armenian translations which have not been found in or identified with the works already known to scholars of the day, either in their original text or in any other translation. 32


And it must be said that the author of the catalogue, Fr. Karekin Zarbhanelian, had never seen the whole corpus of the Armenian manuscripts, but had used only the collection of his own monastery which is, by its size, only- and roughly- one- seventh of the total number of the Armenian manuscripts. He had consulted other catalogues of manuscripts and had used references which were, indeed, in a very poor state in his days as compared with the present catalogues and manuscript studies.


Since 1889 many new manuscripts have been found in various places and new catalogues have been compiled which, in fact, widen the field of Patristic literature preserved in the Armenian translations.


So, when all has been said by way of such a limitation, the importance of these translations remains far greater than a “small people’s literary activity in history.” And I believe that new research in the Armenian manuscripts in the light of new studies in Patristic literature will still enlarge the sphere of the contribution of the Armenian translations to the general body of Christian literature.


*   *   *


It was not only in the fifth century that translating was a distinctive part of the intellectual and literary activity of Armenia. It soon became an integral part of the Armenian ecclesiastical history. Therefore, it must not be thought of as a work exclusively confined to the fifth century, the “Golden Age” of Armenian history as it is so unanimously agreed and accepted. It is rather a process going on through the centuries and bringing fresh air in and giving new impulses to the Armenian intellectual and ecclesiastical life. 33


In fact, the translations of the later centuries bear eloquent testimony to the close relationship and the constant contact of the Armenian literature with the literary achievements of the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches even in the intolerant historical circumstances of the Armenian people. The breach which came to separate the two main bodies of the Eastern Churches, the so-called “Monophysite” and “Orthodox” Churches, however did affect disastrously the position and the future of Christianity in the East. It created an atmosphere of hardness and enmity between these two branches. Yet Armenians were never entirely cut off from the main stream of Christian intellectual life, particularly in the Churches of Constantinople and Alexandria, and, for the later centuries, even from remote Rome. Separation did not mean for them complete seclusion or enclosed isolation.


Thus, to mention but the most important examples, the works known under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite and the writings of John of Damascus were studied among the Armenians through translations. Especially the works of the former were widely read and commented on by Armenian Church divines. There have been not less than three different translations of his works. 34


Later, in the twelfth century, when the Armenians were brought into contact with the Roman Church through their associations with the Crusaders, they also came in touch with the literary and liturgical tradition of the Western Church. So that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Letters of S. Gregory the Great, the Rule of S. Benedict, the Roman Ordinal and many other works were translated into Armenian. In the beginning of the fourteenth century two writings of S. Thomas Aquinas, On the Sacraments and Treatise on the Natures of Christ our Lord, were also translated. 35


But in the later years of the fourteenth century and afterwards the Roman missionaries, chiefly Dominicans, in association with their Armenian converts tried to translate the whole liturgical literature of the Roman Church and to substitute it in practice for the Armenian pattern of worship. 35a


This attempt obviously had gone far beyond the literary and intellectual interests of the Armenian Church divines who naturally came to oppose this infiltration of Latinism in the Armenian Church. In so far as they were concerned in the purely intellectual achievements of the Roman Church they encouraged the translations and were in favour of the relationship between the two Churches. Some of them even learned Latin and read Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas and other scholastics; and although they were influenced through their readings at least by the method of scholasticism, nonetheless, they never lost sight of the ethos of the purely Eastern tradition of their Church, with its own doctrinal, liturgical and spiritual characteristics.


At this stage of the fourteenth century where this survey comes to its end , 36 I think I am justified in saying that the Armenian translations have, indeed, something to tell us about an “Ecumenical” spirit or an openness to the outside Christian world which characterizes, among many other features, the Armenian Church. This aspect is often overlooked in the careless statements so widely common with many Church historians of today about the “isolation” of this Church from the Christian world due, as they think, to a strong sense of nationalism and a constant tendency of particularism. This latter feature of Armenian Church history has to be understood in the proper context of the circumstances of their history as well as against the background of general Church history.


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In what I have said until now one cannot see anything purely or typically Armenian except, perhaps, that sense of communication with and openness to the universal Christian tradition on the one hand, and the language with the genuine use of it by the translators, on the other hand.


As I noted above, this movement of translation was an intellectual stream which irrigated the soil of the Armenian cultural tradition and gave rise to a new and richer harvest. 37


The fifth century was a time when Armenia was divided politically and geographically into two sections: (a) Persian Armenia - the Eastern and largest part of Armenia under the overlordship of the Sassanid Empire, and (b) Byzantine Armenia - the Western provinces of the country under the rule of a Governor appointed by the Byzantine Emperor. Armenians were pressed on both sides. They were exposed to the danger of assimilation by the Mazdean Persians who were carrying on a carefully planned policy of dechristianization in Armenia in order to integrate it wholly into the Persian Empire with its Mazdean religion and culture. On the other side, the Byzantines were trying to draw them to their side with a closer relationship than the one which existed before. The only power which could maintain the unity of the nation was the Church with an expression of her own. The national culture was the key to it. This may explain to a large extent why the original literature started so enthusiastically and reached such a height- the “Golden Age” of the Armenian literature - in such a short period of less than a century.


For one reason or another, the Armenian original literature was an established fact and, at the same time, had an astonishingly successful development during the fifth century. It was carried on in the later centuries in spite of the unhappy circumstances of the historical life of the Armenian people.


Now, the only possible way to draw the picture of this literature is to use terms of an introductory sketch, however inadequate it may be, in order to grasp the whole field and the many particular branches in their distinct features and values at the same time.


Therefore, in a first section, in this second part, I will try to give a general introduction to the various domains of the Armenian original literature.


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1. The Main Branches


Hereunder I present a schematical picture of the main lines of the Armenian original literature:


(a) The Sacred Poetry. It is largely embodied in the liturgical hymns used in the Church’s worship. It may be found also and partly in individual writers whose poetical works are not included in the official hymnal of the Church or have only partly been included.


There are pieces of sacred poetry in this hymnal which reveal a deep and touching spiritual devotion as well as a skillful art in expressing it in a most gracious way. The most beautiful of them have been recognized, for various reasons, in the hymns dedicated to S. Mary, the Holy Virgin, the hymns of the Epiphany and of Holy Week, as well as those of the Transfiguration, the Ascension, and Pentecost.


In the words of a Roman Catholic scholar of Christian spirituality, these hymns are “elevations to God, some of which must be included among the most beautiful in all mystical literature.” 38


(b) The Liturgical Literature. It contains the prayers, collects and whole services of Christian worship such as the Eucharist, the Divine Offices, the Sacraments and other services of special benedictions or of spiritual expressions. Although large parts of them are either direct translations from other, mainly Greek, liturgical traditions or derive from them in their form, yet there are many other parts in them which are the work of the Armenian Church Fathers themselves. 39


(c) The Hagiographic Literature. To this field belong the Lives of the Saints and the Acts of Martyrs , not only of the Armenian saints and martyrs, but also of those venerated in the Church Universal before the split of the fifth century.


Indeed, this part of the Armenian literature is considerably rich; a fact which may be explained mainly by two reasons: firstly, by the large number of national martyrs as a result of endless persecutions in the country and of the heroic endurance in the faith of the people and, secondly, by the immense influence and direct effectiveness of this type of literature for the consolation and exhortation of the Christians. They had to be always nourished in their faith and strengthened in their faithfulness through the example of the martyrs, because martyrdom was a permanent line, an unbroken chain of events in the life of the people in Christian Armenia all along the centuries of her history . 40


(d) The Exegetical Literature. This branch of Christian literature constituted the kernel of religious education in Armenia. In fact, for long centuries the Bible has served the Armenian people as the basis, the fundamental subject of their education and studies. So it is not difficult to imagine how large and all-inclusive was the sphere of exegetical science, combining within itself elements of philosophy and other branches of human knowledge.


It is difficult to say at the moment what is or can be its contribution to the exegetical literature of the Christian Church as a whole, because its relation with the general patterns of exegesis in Eastern Christian tradition has not yet been investigated and studied as such. It is generally believed that on the whole it displays an allegorical and spiritualistic interpretation of the Scriptures rather than a literary or realistic attitude. It would not be surprising, I believe, to find both of these two exegetical traditions or schools as existing together in various authors and at different periods.


(e) The Historical Literature. This section of the Armenian Christian literature has been the most extensively studied and, therefore, the most widely known. Not only because it constitutes one of the richest departments of Armenian literature, but also, and especially, because it is not exclusively or primarily religious in its contents. In fact, the Armenian historiographers do not describe only the religious side of the Armenian history, but its political and cultural aspects as well. And, more than this, they provide us with quite a considerable amount of first-hand information about the peoples, religions and Churches in the neighborhood of Armenia, and also about those who came into contact with Armenia at one time or another in the course of her history. Therefore it is not surprising that almost all the historical works have been studied by European scholars and historians and translated mainly into French.


It is obvious, then, that interests other than the solely religious concern have had their place in the studies of Armenian historiographers who, indeed, have rewarded the sacrifices of the scholars by their contribution to the understanding of Eastern history . 41


(f) The Theological Literature. It would be wrong to think by this term that theology as we understand it to-day is the only subject of the works which come under this title. It is difficult to find in this literature theological themes treated in the way in which we find them treated usually in the theological books or essays of our time. Theological themes here are not treated in the systematic method or in the form of a particular technical language and style, which we are accustomed to find in the books we call “theological” today. “Theological literature” here refers to that part of Armenian Christian literature in which theology is expounded through sermons or homilies, discourses, exhortations, refutations, commentaries and so forth. It is legitimate in this sense to look at the whole religious literature of the Armenian Church as a theological literature when this term is understood in its largest- and original- meaning. If I draw this distinction between the other branches, which I reviewed above and this “theological” department which I consider now, it is merely because in the latter the doctrinal material is much more predominantly present than in the former.


In this field of Armenian Christian literature our attention goes very naturally to the most important authors and works. To give some names:


(i) The Stromateis ( Hadjakhapatoum)- twenty-three homilies traditionally ascribed to S. Gregory the Illuminator. They are sometimes attributed also to S. Mesrop Mashtots (fifth century), the author of the Armenian alphabet . 42


(ii) The Homilies (Djark) of S. John Mandakouni (fifth century) which have enjoyed a very high reputation and have been held in considerably high authority by the Armenian Church divines. Some of these homilies recently have been attributed to John Mayragometsi, a seventh century author, under whose name they have been found in many manuscripts. Most of the homilies have a moral character rather than strictly doctrinal, having been conceived with the idea and intention of Christian instruction. Important aspects of the people’s daily life and ordinary beliefs and superstitions are reflected there. The volume is a mine the study of which can give a clearer picture of the Christian struggle with pagan customs and beliefs still persisting on the level of day to day life . 43


(iii) A treatise On the Iconoclasts by Vertanes Kertogh (seventh century) which is reckoned the first written document preserved in defence of veneration of images in the Christian Church . 44


(iv) The five Christological Treatises of Khosrovik Targmanich (i.e. the translator)- eighth century- written against the later monophysite heretical doctrines concerning the corruptibility and incorruptibility of the body of Christ. They have

not yet been given the attention they deserve in connection with the study of the later developments of monophysitism . 45


(v) The works of Hovhannes Imastaser (John the Philosopher, otherwise known as John of Odsoun)- eighth century- namely his Treatise on the Church, Against the Paulicians and Against the Phantasiastae. All his works have been highly appreciated as being sound and well balanced expositions of Christian doctrine composed in the midst of conflicting heretical movements and also as being now most valuable documents on the history of those heretical movements in the East . 46


(vi) The Exposition of the Prayers of the Liturgy and the Commentary of the Divine Offices of Khosrov Antzevatsi (tenth century) simply written and richly documented treatises very important especially for the historical study of the Liturgy and the Divine Offices in the Armenian Church.47


(vii) The works of Nerses Lambronatsi, an eminent figure in the twelfth century. The most important one is his Exposition of the Holy Liturgy, a masterly essay of its kind. Being an ardent advocate of Christian unity Lambronatsi had acquired a wide knowledge of other Christian traditions. He could read Hebrew, Greek, Syriac and Latin very easily. He produced commentaries, theological treatises, and made translations of an incredibly wide range. A thorough study in his life and work will bring him to the forefront of the Armenian theologians as an outstanding figure especially in the ecumenical field.48


But I feel that I cannot go farther along this line, because I know that these names by themselves will not mean much to you. I chose them from among many others- not an easy choice, indeed!- in order to substantiate my previous statement on the “theological literature” of the Armenian Church as taken separately from the other branches of the same literature.


Now closing this sketch I come to the second section of this part of my paper.


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2. Individual Writers


Here I have taken up the names of four Armenian ecclesiastical writers to speak of them individually.


I have done this for two reasons: (a) they represent in themselves different typical aspects of Armenian theological literature; (b) the significance of their works reaches, more distinctly, beyond the limits of a local, national literature out into the sphere of the inter-ecclesiastical. In other words, they belong, so to speak, to the universal tradition of the Christian Church. It is this second feature of their importance which makes me think that they may meet your interests in a more direct way than other representatives of the Armenian Christian literature.


(a) Eznik of Kolb. An apologist of the fifth century he was trained in Constantinople for his higher education. On his return to Armenia between 432 and 435- after the Council of Ephesus- he brought with him an accurate copy of the Greek Septuagint text of the Bible on which the revision of the former Armenian translation from a Syriac version was made. He then took a very active part in the work of translating, particularly in and through this radical recension of the Armenian Bible and through the translation of the Church Fathers with whose works he was so well acquainted in Constantinople.


His literary work- a masterpiece of classical Armenian language- which fortunately has survived in a single manuscript, unicum- is a small book in which he tries to vindicate the truth of the Christian faith against almost all the kinds of attacks that were made on it from the various philosophical schools, from the pagan religious systems and from heretical sections within the Church itself. The treatise which now has come to be called Refutation of the. Sects, is composed of four books:


(i) Against the Pagans

(ii) Against the Religion of the Persians - Mazdaism

(iii) Against the Greek Philosophers

(iv) Against the heresy of Marcion


A careful and searching look at this sketch of his work will reveal that Eznik”s chief concern is the Christian doctrine of God. The unity of thought which underlies all these sections of the book is the orthodox Christian conception of God defensively expounded against the background of non-orthodox conceptions. Here lies then the theological nature of the book. 49


His task consists in examining all the existing ideas and theories on God as understood both in His transcendent being and in His personal nature revealed through His relation to the world and to mankind. Thus, pagan conceptions of God, the perpetual problem of evil, extensively dwelt upon, with all its implications and complications for the Christian doctrine of God, the Mazdean and Manichaean dualistic systems of theism, the Greek philosophical ideas as found in the different schools of Greek thought- Pythagoreans, Peripatetics, Platonists, Epicureans, Stoics, etc.- all these constitute the vast theme of Eznik”s rather concise treatise which is a condensed, sound and vigorous vindication of Christian theism as opposed to all the conflicting and disturbing views referred to which seem to have been strongly responded to in Armenia . 50


It may be noted very easily that in Eznik’s work there is revealed a very wide, encyclopedic knowledge of the most crucial philosophical and theological problems of the time. Eznik is well versed in Patristic literature from which he quotes easily and extensively combining all the citations in an original plan of his own and with a personal, direct approach to the problem . 51


One of the greatest contributions of this author to modem scholarship consists in the first-hand material he provides on, for example, the Mazdean religion and the Marcionite heresy. His information on these two religious systems has, in fact, considerably served the studies and investigations into them. 52


It is, indeed, a significant instance that in many ways and for more than one reason the attention of scholars has been often drawn to this little book which has been translated and studied with keen interest and high appreciation. 53


(b) S. Gregory of Narek. If in Eznik of Kolb we have a representative of the Armenian apologetic literature, in S. Gregory of Narek, otherwise known as Narekatsi, we have the highest expression of the Armenian mystical literature.


Still today a popular saint in the Church of Armenia, Narekatsi was that author of the tenth century who exerted the deepest influence on the spirituality of the Armenian Church and gained an unequalled place in the piety of the Armenian people.


His capital work is called The Book of Lamentations composed of a series of prayers which are, indeed, genuine mystical elevations to God. Popular Armenian piety has come to associate with this book a veneration normally reserved for a shrine or almost equal to that of an Icon in the Orthodox Church. Thus, pious people for long centuries have put it- and still do put it- under their pillows as a guard against the power of evil. They read portions of it over a sick person. The reputation of its author’s saintliness was so eminent in and after his lifetime that a writer of the twelfth century has given expression to it by speaking of S. Gregory of Narek as “an angel in a human body” (Nerses Lambronatsi).


This spiritual writer is a typical mystic. In his book we realize the disclosure of a rather peculiar aspect of mysticism. His work is entitled Lamentations (or Elegies) because in his elevations to the presence of God while communion with God brings him into the unspeakable joy of the divine life, yet, at the same time, it is for him the clear mirror in which human sinfulness, pitifulness and nothingness are revealed to him in and through his own person which he laments and deplores. The presence of God within him reveals him to himself in the truest condition of human frailty and misery. Thus, he sees himself unworthy and incapable- on his own merits- of that blissful enjoyment of God’s presence in him. Hence his mind clings to and is absorbed by the idea of God’s immeasurable power of grace as the only ground of spiritual firmness and safety for him. He pictures himself as  thrown into a stormy sea with the body as a boat.


The grace of God is that wind of peace in which his soul finds rest and comfort. 54


This tragedy of human condition in his soul, his book excels in displaying with that ampleness and richness of expression which is undoubtedly his own and constitutes one of the greatest literary values of his work. 55


(c) S. Nerses Shnorhali. In S. Nerses Shnorhali (i.e. “the Gracious”)- twelfth century- it is very difficult to distinguish between the theologian and the poet. No doubt he is equally both of them. In fact, his expositions of the doctrine of the Armenian Church are the clearest and the soundest of all the treatises on the doctrinal position of the Armenian Church. The hymns from his pen are the most beautiful ones in the Armenian Hymnal. In connection with his poetical works he is to the Armenian Church what a Romanus is to the Greek Orthodox Church, and much more than a Wesley or a Keble to the Anglican Church! His prayers may, indeed, be counted among the best pieces of Christian spiritual literature. Above all, a particular series of them, composed in twenty-four strophes and intended for private devotion, is translated into thirty-six languages and published in Venice. 56


But I will not take into account either of these two features of his work at the moment in order to draw the figure of this Church Father, because besides, or beneath, these two features there is one which may be, I suppose, much more relevant for today and, therefore, much more valuable in such a paper as this- Nerses Shnorhali is the ecumenical figure par excellence of Armenian Church history and literature.


His continuous negotiations with the Byzantine Emperor, Manual I Comnenus (1143-80), for the reunion of the Armenian and Byzantine Churches constitute one of the brightest chapters in the history of the relations between the two Churches.


The story is quite well known not to be dwelt upon. But it needs perhaps, and deserves surely, a remembrance.


S. Nerses Shnorhali is deeply aware that the communion in faith exists already between the two Churches, though they have different ways of expressing that same faith. These differences are related to their historical traditions which have not, however, obscured or destroyed the orthodoxy of their faith in the Person of Christ. The unity between them may be recovered and intercommunion restored beyond the words and formulae, if charity, good will and prayer become the driving forces in the course of the negotiations. “Let us not examine,” he writes to the Emperor, “in a spirit of enmity and with useless quarrels, as it was done until now, a procedure from which the Church derived no benefit in all these yearn but was rather harmed by it; let it be done in humility and calm .” 57


He thinks that reunion must be preceded by prayers to prepare the way, because unity is not an end to be reached simply by human efforts and calculated policy, but by divine guidance. Then he suggests: “Orders must be given that in all the Churches under your (i.e. Emperor’s) jurisdiction prayers be made to God that your good intention be not obstructed by Satan, the adversary of Good, and that God may fulfil it in His mercy. We also, in our turn, have written to all our Churches in the East (i.e. Cilicia) and in Armenia Major (i.e. the fatherland of the Armenian people) ordering them to make the same supplication to God. Finally, let there be an end to this sickness which is of so long standing, and to the distress of God because of our divisions. Henceforth may God bind together the children of the New Sion in the love of unity, and let Him who is the source of our joy, God, rejoice with His angels because of our reconciliation . 58


(d) S. Gregory of Datev. Finally, we come to the fourth writer whom I will not hesitate to name as the Armenian Scholastic - Gregory of Datev in the fourteenth century.


He is the champion of Armenian orthodoxy, an ardent controversialist engaged in polemic with the Roman missionaries - Dominican and Franciscan friars- and Armenian “Romanizers” whose sole mission in Armenia was to subjugate the Armenian Church to the authority of the See of Rome, and to make her accept all the dogmas as formulated and confessed in the Roman Catholic Church. Gradually they had achieved quite a wide expansion in the country; they began to gain foothold chiefly through their educational activities, which attracted many Armenians desirous of learning from them the elements of Western cultural and scientific knowledge. But soon this hearty welcome of the Armenians to the missionaries was taken by the latter as a great opportunity of converting the Armenians into Latin Catholicism thus, in fact, changing colors instead of souls!


The real missionary vocation, as designed by Christ (Matt. 28:19-20) was being confounded with a narrow proselytism. Even a religious community was established in order to carry on this proselytism in a systematic way; its members were recruited from the converted Armenian priests. It was later attached to the Dominican Order. Its special mission aimed at the union of the Armenian Church with the Roman through the total surrender and complete subjugation of the former to the latter. It took its name, Unitores, from the nature of its mission.


Now, this meant going so far that it hurt the religious consciousness of Armenian people and, therefore, met with strong opposition from the divines of the Armenian Church on theological grounds. Some of them, as we have noted already, had learned Latin and were acquainted with the scholastic theology of the time which was brought to the East by these missionaries. Gregory of Datev came forward as the most learned and distinguished theologian of this group of Armenian divines. So he led or directed the movement of defence and counter-attack.


It is with this idea and to this end that he wrote his books - sermons and commentaries - of which the most important and the most influential was the Book of Questions which has often been recognized as equivalent in Armenian literature to the Summa Theologica of S. Thomas Aquinas in Latin medieval literature both in method and in content. Gregory’s argumentation follows the same discourse of question and answer, of objection and solution given in numerical order as in the scholastic method used in the Western medieval theological literature. Actually, he was using the same weapon, taken from the hands of his adversaries, but in the opposite direction . 59


His work is a thoroughgoing exposition of Christian doctrine - with all its themes included- as confessed and taught in the Armenian Church; not, however, positively expounded but rather defensively, always being compared and often contrasted with the teaching of the Roman Church. 60 He stands constantly and firmly on the ground of the Armenian Church’s doctrinal position but having his face turned towards the Roman Church. And this must be understood in the context of the historical circumstances we just outlined above. 61


*   *   *


An Armenian Patriarch once wrote at the end of his Commentary on the Book of Lamentations of S. Gregory of Narek, summing up the significance of his work: “I built a clay door to a Golden Palace.”


With the same words I conclude now this brief survey of the Armenian Christian Literature. I will be completely rewarded if this compendium may serve as a door, however “clay” it may be, to introduce you into the Golden Palace of the Armenian

Christian Literature.


Its beauty will be revealed to an eye which penetrates deeper.


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1. The Guardian, December 12th, 1888, p. 1899: “The Armenian Church - not Eutychian,” by A. Saunders Dyer.


2. Adrian Fortescue, The Lesser Eastern Churches , p. 382, London, 1913.


3. Archdale A. King, The Rites of Eastern Christendom,

vol. II, p. 533, Rome, 1947.


4. By this term we understand the literature written in the Armenian classical language in which Armenian literature was shaped and developed until the nineteenth century when the spoken vernacular came into predominance over the classical. The nineteenth century is the age of transition from the ancient classical to the modern literature. Whereas the latter achieved a very successful career, mainly under the influence of the French literature, the former was preserved in the Liturgy of the Church and in the writings of the Church Fathers.


5. Scholars and Church historians have displayed a large variety of opinions about the precise date. The generally accepted one is A.D. 301.


But from the early fifth century up to the present time they all agree that, as Sozomen the historian said it once and so briefly, “The Armenians, I have understood, were the first to embrace Christianity” (see Eccl. Hist., Book II, ch. VIII, in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol. II, p. 264); cf. L. Duchesne, The Early History of the Church, vol. Ill, pp. 366-9, London, 1924, B. J. Kidd, A History of the Church, vol. Ill, p. 419-20, Oxford, 1922.


6. Christianity had been spread in Armenia before this official conversion which was the work of S. Gregory called “the Illuminator,” the greatest Apostle of Armenia, and of King Tiridates III, one of the most eminent figures of Armenian political history. Actually the Armenian tradition traces the preaching of the Gospei in Armenia back to the Apostolic Age. S. Thaddeus (John 14: 22-4) and S. Bartholomew (John I: 43-51) have been always regarded as the founders of the Armenian Church, which has been always called “Apostolic.” All the historical evidence at hand points to an early expansion of Christianity in Armenia. The best documentary account of this early Christianity may be found in Fr. Tournebize, Histoire Politique et Religieuse de l’Armenie - a special chapter, “Etude sur la conversion de l’Armenie au Christianisme,” pp. 401-552, particularly pp. 401-21, Paris, 1910; cf. Simon Vailhe, “Formation de l'Eglise Armenienne” in Echos d’Orient, t. XVI (1913), pp. 109-22, 193-211; Simon Weber, Die Katholische Kirche in Armenien, pp. 55-86, Freiburg in Breisgau, 1903.



7. Up to the end of the fourth century the Christian worship was conducted in Armenia either in Greek or Syriac, according to the knowledge of the clergy and the areas of influence of these two languages and cultures in Armenia. In fact, the expansion of Christianity into Armenia was the result of a twofold activity carried on simultaneously by Syrian missionaries from Edessa and Nisibis (south-west of Armenia) and by Greek missionaries from Cappadocia, namely from Caesarea, Sebastia and Melitene (north-west of Armenia).


There was no written language. Or, at least, if there was any, as some Armenian scholars would contend to-day, its use had ceased, for one reason or another, during the first four centuries of Christian history in Armenia.



8. The famous French linguist, A. Meillet, Characterizes the Armenian alphabet in the following words; “The system of the Armenian alphabet is, as every one knows, a master piece. Each of the phonemes of the Armenian phonetics has its own sign, and the system is so well founded that it has provided the Armenian nation with a definitive system of phonetics which has been maintained to this day without undergoing any alteration, or needing to receive any improvement for it was perfect from the beginning” (taken from a letter, March 29th, 1936, written on the occasion of the celebration of the fifteenth centenary of the Armenian translation of the Bible- see the symposium of the addresses published in Paris, 1938).


The history of the invention of the Armenian alphabet and the life of its author, S. Mesrop Mashtots, are related by Koriun, a disciple of the latter, in his The Life of Mashtots. French translation in V. Langlois, Hist. Arm., vol. II, pp. 9-16; a German translation by Simon Weber, “Koriun: Beschreibung des Lebens und Sterbens des hi. Lehrers Mesrop,” in the Ausgewahlte Schriften armenischer Kirchenuater, vol. I, pp. 196-232, published in the series of Bibliotek der Kirchenuater, edited by O. Bardenhewer and others, see vol. 57, Munich, 1927. Cf. other fifth century authors, Ghazar Parbetsi, chaps. 9, 10, 11, 18, see Langois, Hist Arm., vol. II; Movses Khorenatsi (usually known as Moise of Chorene), Bk. Ill, chaps. 52-4, 57-8, 60, 62, 67, see Langois, Hist. Arm., vol. II.


See a thoroughgoing study of the problems involved in the invention of the Armenian alphabet by P. Peeters, “Pour l'histoire des origines de l’alphabet armenien, “ in Revue des Etudes Armeniennes, t. IX (1929), pp. 203-37; reprinted in the collection of the author’s articles, Recherches d'Histoire et de Philologie Orientales, in the series of Subsidia Hagiographica, vol. I, pp. 171-207, Bruxelles, 1951; cf. R. Grousset, Histoire de l”Armenie, pp. 171-7, Paris, 1947.



9. N, Adontz, The Armenian Bible and its significance. See it in Celebration solennelle du quinzieme centenaire de la traduction armenienne de la Bible, p. 48, Paris, 1938. The whole booklet is rich with penetrating remarks and considerations on the significance of the Armenian Bible seen from various angles.


It is very characteristic that even foreign scholars of high standing have realized the immense importance and the tremendous role the Armenian translation played in the national life, literature and spirituality of the Armenian people. To quote one of them: “In the life of the Armenians, whose history is one of endless struggle and suffering, this translation work has had the greatest significance for the consolidation of the Christian religion and also for the transformation of the psychology of the nation” (Arthur Voobus, Early Versions of the New Testament-Manuscript studies, pp. 137-8, Stockholm, 1954).


10. Hastings, Diet, of the Bible, vol. I, p. 152.



11. A. Voobus, op. cit, pp. 162-4; see the whole chapter IV, “The Armenian Versions,” pp. 133-71.


Felix-Neve had already noticed the high textual value of the Armenian version. He wrote: “The Armenian version of the Bible, carried out in the great literary century, is a capital work which has always enjoyed an authority both on account of its age, and of the profound work of its authors; it is quoted to this day in exegetical works. It has an eminent place amongst the classical texts” ( L'Armenie Chretienne et sa litterature. pp. 22-3, Louvain, 1888).


Georges Cuendet, another expert on the Armenian text of the Bible, from the University of Geneva, has tried to show the accuracy of the Armenian translation in an interesting article: “Exactitude et adresse dans la version armenienne de la Bible” in Handes Amsorya (philological review of the Mekhitarist Community in Vienna), t. 49 (1936), col. 563-70. He says, “The Armenian translation of the Holy Scriptures is an inexhaustible mine, whose treasures seem to be renewed the more one makes use of them, one question leading to another, and the solution of one problem opening up the way to further inquiries. The more this version is studied, the greater becomes one”s admiration for it, and one becomes more and more convinced of the extraordinary efforts which must have been put into it by men of great intelligence. As has already been said with great justice (see Macler, Le Texte Armenien de l’Evangile, 1919: S. Lyonnet, Le Parfait en Armenien Classique, 1933) it is the most interesting to analyse the work to which the translators gave themselves. They were skillful theologians, careful to reproduce the slightest details of the original; they respect its meaning rather than its form, being altogether convinced of the primacy of the spirit over the letter. Although a translation always runs the risk of becoming a slavish copy of its model, the Armenian version almost entirely escapes this danger. On the contrary, it often becomes a veritable commentary of the original. Nothing is more fascinating than to go over this work of interpretation by collating the Armenian translation with the Greek text. Owing to their extremely sure and sensitive feeling for their own language joined with their thorough and sometimes astonishing knowledge of Greek, they were able to banish all merely mechanical methods” (col. 563-4). He brings forth a number of examples in order to substantiate the above statement, and then he concludes, “The Armenian version, remarkable from every point of view, is an original masterpiece. One does not know where to fault these writers, so exceptional was their penetration, so great their mastery of the subject. They undertook to nationalize the translation of the Bible, and they succeeded to such a degree that the whole of the Armenian literature goes back to this source” (col. 570).


12. The Armenian manuscripts of the Bible are impressively numerous. Hundreds of them containing the entire text of the Bible or parts of it, especially the New Testament, may be found in various collections of Armenian manuscripts. The important ones are described by Fr. Karekin Zarbhanelian in his Library of Ancient Armenian Translations, p. 121-71. See also a list of them in S. Lyonnet, Vers. Arm. et Georg., pp. 342-6. “The Armenian Bible was first printed at Amsterdam in 1666, but from a single manuscript, and the printed text was in places adjusted to the Latin Vulgate. A later edition, issued in 1733 by Mechitar in Venice, was mainly a reprint of the edition of 1666. The first critical edition was issued in 1805 at Venice under the care of Zohrab, who used several codices, the best of them one written in the fourteenth century. The variants of the MSS. used are given under the text; but without distinguishing in which codex which variant is read. However, one codex of the Armenian Bible differs very slightly from another. Other editions have been published in Moscow, Constantinople and Venice during this century, those of Venice being particularly good and reliable” (F. Conybeare, in Hastings, Diet, of the

Bible, vol. I, p. 154). For further information about the printed text of the Armenian Bible see S. Lyonnet, op. cit., pp. 346-8.


There has been no authorized translation of the Bible into Modern Armenian. Attempts have been made by the Church in the past, especially in the nineteenth century, but the tragic events of persecution and massacre hindered the work. Now a translation is being carried on. It is hoped that it will be completed in 1965.


Incidentally, the Armenian word for the “Bible” is “Astvadsashounch Matean,” or simply “Astvadsashouneh,” which means “divinely inspired book” or “the Breath of God,” surely taken from 2 Timothy 3: 16. Vardapet Tiran Nersoyan has pointed out the significance of this appelation in a penetrating remark: “Armenians seldom call the Sacred Book by that rather pale name, “the Scriptures,” of onomatopaeic origin

and devoid of theological significance. They have taken S. Paul’s description of it in 2 Timothy 3: 16 and made that its name. Thus they call it “the Breath of God” (“Asdvadzashoonch”). If a people has the immortal desire of the abundant life, it must needs go on breathing God’s Breath, with which it was quickened at the very moment of its creation. This Breath can be received through the Word” {The Bible in the Armenian Church, p. 1).


13. There are several English translations of the Armenian Liturgy. The number is over ten. The most generally known is the one contained in F. E. Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, Oxford, 1896.


A recent translation is made by Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, The Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, New York, 1952. This is the best translation which contains both the variable and invariable parts of the Liturgy, with a supplementary part containing a commentary and practical explanations of an encyclopaedic scope.


The exhaustive historical study of the Armenian Liturgy is the work of Fr. Hovsep Gatergian, The Sacred Missals of the Armenians - translations of the Greek, Syriac and Latin Liturgies, with introduction and critical notes - edited with further additions by Fr. Hagop Tashian, Vienna, 1897 (in Armenian).


14. G. Bardy has recognized this intensiveness of the literary activity in the fifth century and, seeing it in the context of the Christian literature as a whole, says: “The speed which the leaders of the Armenian Church displayed in appropriating all the works of the Fathers in their national language, is perhaps without parallel in the history of Christianity. We must see in it both a measure of protection against the attacks and attractions which came from Persia, and a manifestation of independence of foreign Churches” (La question des langues dans l’Eglise ancienne, t. I, p. 36, Paris 1948).


15. J. Quasten, Patrology, vol. I, p. 192. On the discovery of this fragment which revealed the character and content of Aristides” work for the first time. Cardinal Pitra, the famous Roman Catholic Patristic scholar, wrote the following words in a letter to the editor of the Armenian text: “I would like to be among the first to express my gratitude to you, in telling you of the agreeable surprise and happy interest with which I read the precious and magnificent little work of S. Aristides ... A rumour had reached me about the discovery of the Apology of Aristides. I imagined the Greek text and hoped anxiously for the confirmation of the rumour. However short may be that which comes to us from your inexhaustible Armenia, all is golden in it, and all speaks of the golden age of apologetics” (quoted in French in K. Zarbhanelian, op. cit., pp. 319-20; Cf. J. Rendel Harris, The Apology of Aristides, pp. 2-3, where he speaks of the high textual value of the Armenian translation. Texts and Studies, vol. 1, No. 1. See there also Renan”s and Harnack”s views.


It was published under the following elaborate title: Sancti Aristidis philosophi Atheniensis sermones duo quorum originalis textus desideratur ex antiqua Arme- niaca versione nunc primum in Latinam linguam translati, Venice, 1878.


Later the work was discovered in its complete text in a Syriac version by J, Rendel Harris. It was published and translated by him in the series Texts and Studies

(vol. I, No. 1), together with Greek original fragments edited and commented on by J. A. Robinson. The Armenian version is widely used therein.


16. Otto Bardenhewer, Patrology , p. 246, English translation by Thomas J. Shahan, Freiburg in Breisgau, 1098.


It was published by P. Jo. Baptistae Aucher Anyrani under the title Eusebii Pamphili Caesariensis Episcopi Chronicon Bipartitum, Nunc Primum ex Armeniaco textu in latinum conversum Adnotationibus Auctum Graecis Fragmentis Exornatum, Venice, 1818.



17. Dr. Herman Jordan, “Armenische Irenaeus Fragmente,” in Texte und Untersuchungen, vol. XXXVI, Leipzig, 1913.


18. They were published by Lie. Dr. Erwand Ter-Minassiantz, Irenaeus Gegen die Hdretiker-Buch IV u. V. in Armenischer Version Entdeckt, Leipzig, 1910.



19. Eccl. Hist., V. 26.


20. Lie. Dr. Karapet Ter-Mekettschian und Lie. Dr. Erwand Ter-Minassiantz, “Des Heiligen Irenaeus- Schrift zum Erweise der Apostolischen Verkiindigung, in Texte und Untersuchungen, vol. XXXI, Leipzig, 1907.


21. S. Weber, Sancti Irenaei episcopi Lugdunenis Demonstratio apostolicae Praedicationis, ex Anneno, uertit. proleg. illust., notis locuplet., Freiburg, 1917.


22. S. Weber, Des bl. Irenaeus Schrift zum Eruieis der apostolischen Verkiindigung, in the series of Bibliotek der Kirchenvater, vol. 4, Kempten-Munich, 1912.



23. (a) In Patrologia Orientalis, t. XII, fasc. 5, by Bishop Karapet Ter-Mekerttschian and Dr. S. G. Wilson, with the co-operation of H.R.H. Prince Max of Saxony, D.D., D.C.L., Paris, 1919.


(b) J. A. Robinson, The Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching, in the series of Translation of Christian Literature. IV: Oriental Texts, S.P.C.K., London, 1920.


( c ) J. P. Smith, S.J., S. Irenaeus: Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, in the series of Ancient Christian Writers, No. 16, London, 1952.


24. In Patrologia Orientalis, t. XII, by Joseph Barthoulot, S.J., with an Introduction by J. Tixeront. Reprinted from Recherches de Science Religieuse, t. VI (1916), pp. 361-432.


A recent translation appeared in Sources Chretiennes (No. 62) made by L. M. Froidevaux, Irenee de Lyon: Demonstration de la Prediction Apostolique, with introduction and notes. Paris, 1959.



25. Made from the German translation by Professor N. I. Sagarda and published in the review Hristianskoe Ctenie , t. 87 (1907). See Smith, Irenaeus, pp. 115-16, note 9; cf. K. Ter-Mekerttschian, The Seal of Faith, Introduction, p. XXXV, Etchmiadzin, 1914 (in Armenian).


26. Ubaldo Faldati, S. Ireneo, Esposizione della Predicazione Apostolica, Rome, 1923. See Quasten, Patrology, vol. I, p. 293.


27. H. U. Meyboom, Leyden, 1920. See Quasten, Patrology. p. 293.


See a very remarkable study on the terminology used in the “Demonstration” by D. B. Reynders, Vocabutaire de la 'Demonstration' et des Fragments de S. Irenee, Chevetogne, Belgique, 1958.



28. Excellent work is being done on the manuscripts of non-religious contents. Valuable new material has been found in historical, scientific, philosophical domains. I am sure if adequate attention also is paid to the religious, namely to the patristic, texts it will not be surprising to find new documents, fragments or complete texts of important value.



29. The preparation of the catalogue of the manuscripts was begun by Archbishop Ardavazt Surmeyan. The first volume was published by him in Venice, 1948. See a review of it by J. Muyldermans in Le Museon, t. 64 (1951), pp. 236-40.


Then it was continued by Bishop Norayr Bogharian, who already has published two more volumes in Jerusalem. The work is being pursued by him.


30. The catalogue of the manuscripts in Venice was prepared by Fr. Barsegh Sarkissian. Two volumes were published (Venice, 1914 and 1919). But the work was interrupted. See a very important article by J. Muvldermans on the Patristic value of the manuscripts. “Repertoire de pieces patristiques d”apres le catalogue Armenien de Venise,” in Le Museon, t. 47 (1934), pp. 265-92. See also Idem, “L”Apport des editions Armeniennes de Venise a la Patristique,” in Bazmavep, pp.

386-98, 1949.


The catalogue of the manuscripts in Vienna is a masterpiece of its kind. It is the work of the famous Armenian scholar, Fr. Hagop Tashian. It is published in Vienna, 1895.


31. The catalogue of the Armenian manuscripts in the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris is made by F. Macler, Catalogue des manuscrits armeniens et georgiens de la Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, 1908.


The catalogues of the manuscripts in the British Museum and in the Bodleian Library of Oxford are prepared by F. C. Conybeare, (a) A Catalogue of the Armenian manuscripts in the British Museum, London, 1913; (b) Catalogue of the Armenian manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1918 (partly done by Revd. Soukias Baronian).


See a catalogue of some Armenian manuscripts in Europe by Archbishop Ardavatz Surmeyan, vol. I, Paris, 1950.


The Armenian manuscripts in The Chester Beatty Library are now catalogued by Sirarpie Der-Nersessian, Professor of Byzantine Art at Dumbarton Oaks and member of the Faculty of Arts and Letters at Harvard University. A superb work preceded with an Introduc- tion on the History of the Armenian Art, 2 vols., Dublin, 1958.


See for an index of private and public libraries in Europe containing Armenian manuscripts the richly documented article by Jean Simon, S.J., “Repertoire des Bibliotheques publiques et privees d”Europe contenant des manuscripts armeniens,” in Orientalia , t. II (1933), pp. 232-50. 


For a complete list of the calalogues of the Armenian manuscripts see H. DJ. Sirouni, “Les Manuscripts Armeniens - Donnees Bibliographiques,” in Studia et Acta Orientalia, vol I (1957), pp. 265-80, Bucarest, 1958.


32. It would be interesting to illustrate this point by picking up some of these homilies (this term is used here in a very loose sense) or fragments marked in this catalogue of the Armenian translations. Following the author’s alphabetical order we have this picture:


Twelve homilies of S. Athanasius.

Numerous fragments from the works known under the name of Apollinarius.

Fifteen homilies of S. Basil the Great.

Seven homilies of S. Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzen).

Two homilies of S. Gregory of Nyssa.

Seven homilies of S. Gregory Thaumaturgus.

Five homilies of Dionysius of Alexandria.

Fifty-nine homilies under the name of Epiphanius of Salamis.

Nine fragments of S. Irenaeus.

Twenty-nine homilies of Evagrius Ponticus.

Thirty-eight homilies of S. Ephraim Syrus.

Three homilies of S. Cyril of Alexandria.

Seven homilies of S. Cyril of Jerusalem.

Several fragments of S. John Chrysostom.


It would be unreasonable to claim that what the author of the catalogue had noted in 1889 as preserved only in Armenian translation are still unidentifiable. Most of them have been found; or, perhaps, they existed but were missed by the author himself in spite of his wide knowledge of Patristic texts. But at the same time it is equally true, as we noted already, that he had not seen all the Armenian manuscripts, but a very small proportion of them. In any case, the list here is given as a mere example in order to give us a general idea of the extent of the translations and their contribution to patristic studies.


33. “It is true,” writes the great Bollandist scholar, P. Peeters, “that throughout the course of her history, Christian Armenia continued, as it had begun, to be a country of translators.” See “Traductions et Traducteurs dans l”Hagiographie orientale a I'epoque Byzantine,” in Analecta Bollandiana, t. 40 (1922), pp. 241-98; see particularly pp. 265-76. Reprinted in Le Trefonds Oriental de I”Hagiographie Byzantine , Appendice, pp. 164-218, Bruxelles, 1950.


34. See K. Ter-Mekerttschian, The Seal of Faith, Introduction, pp. xxxii-iv.


35. See K, Zarbhanelian, op. cit., pp. 274-5; cf. I. Hausherr, Armenienne” (Spiritualite), in Diet, de Spirituality, t. I, cols. 866-7.


35a The most authoritative expert on these translations and, indeed, on the whole history of the Armenian Romanophiles or Latinisers of the fourteenth century, commonly called Unitores (see infra, pp. 46-7) is Professor M. A. Van den Oudenrijn, of the University of Friburg.


36. There could be added to this sketch of Armenian translations other parts also of Christian literature. To mention them:


(a) The Acts of Martyrs or The Lives of Saints. See P. Peeters, Traductions et Traducteurs . . . , supra, note 33.


(b) The correspondence between Eastern Patriarchs and Armenian Catholicoi. See in this respect the famous Book of Letters (Tiflis, 1901) - a series of documents of primary importance for the understanding of the Armenian doctrinal position in Christology. The first documents including namely the correspondence between Acacius of Melitene, Proclus of Constantinople and Sahak the Armenian Catholicos, together with the “Demonstration” of John Mandakouni, have been translated into French and published with an Introduction and critical notes by M. Tallon, S.J., 'Livre des Lettres, I er Groupe: Documents concernant les relations avec les Grecs,” in Melanges de VUniversite saint Joseph, Beyrouth, Liban, t. XXXII (1955), Fasc. I. Published also separately.


(c) The Collections of “Church Canons” which may be found in manuscripts. There has been no critical and integral edition of the Armenian Canon Law. There are two important compilations in print: (i) Arsen Gheldjian, The Book of the Armenian Canons, Tiflis, 1913; (ii) Nerses Vardapet Meliktanguian, The Armenian Ecclesiastical Law, Shushi, 1903.


For the study of the Armenian Canon Law it is necessary to take into account the Code of Mekhitar Gosh, edited by Vahan Vard. Basdamiantz, with Introduction and critical notes, Vagharshapat, 1880.


A great number of Canons are translated in Latin and some in French. See Codificazione Canonica Orientate Fonti, Fasciolo VII: Disciplin Armena, Testi vari di Diritto Canonico Armeno (secolo IV-XVII), compiled by G. Amadouni, Vatican, 1932.


For the historical study of the sources see P. V. Hatzuni. An article on the sources of the Armenian Canons in the same Vatican official series, Fasc. VIII, Studi Storici sulle Fonti del Diritto Canonico Orientate, Vatican, 1932.


See also the article of J. Mecerian, “Chronique de Droit Armenian,” in Melanges de VUniversite de saint Joseph. Bulletin Armenologique, 2 rr ' e Cahier, IV, pp. 238-46, Beyrouth, 1953.


(d) Particularly important are the two Compilations of Citations- Florilegium- From Church Fathers, chiefly of Christological content, gathered in the purpose of defending the christological position of the Church. These two collections of fragments have been considered as amply rich mines of patristic literature. They are:


(1) Timothy Aelurus, Refutation of the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, discovered by Karapet Ter-Mekerttschian in 1897. It was later published by him in collaboration with Erwand Ter-Minassiantz in Etchmiadzin, 1908. There has been no other complete text of this work either in Greek or Syriac. See for its importance F. Cavallera, “Le Dossier Patristique de Timothee Aeiure,” in Bulletin de Litterature Ecclesiastique, t. XI (1909), pp. 93-111; J. Lebon, “Version armenienne et version syriaque de Timothee Elure,” in Handes Amsorya, t. 40 (1927), pp. 713-20.


(2) The Sea! of Faith (“Knik e Havatoy”), discovered and published again by Karapet Ter-Mekerttschian, Etchmiadzin, 1914. See the article of J. Lebon, “Les Citation Patristiques du “Sceau de la Foi,” in Revue d'Histoire Ecclesiastique, t. XXV (1929), pp. 5-32. Here he tries to identify the citations of the Compila- tion with the existing works of the Church Fathers. He confesses that there have remained some which he has not been able to identify (see pp. 31-2).



37. Again I quote here P. Peeters, whose penetrating insight into the significance of the Armenian translations is, indeed, stimulating: “It must not be supposed that the Armenian people remained indefinitely in the role of pupils at foreign schools, and that they allowed a sort of intellectual domination by their neighbors to become established. Without playing on words one can say that a large part of the foreign literature which was assimilated did not come from outside; but rather it was the Armenians who went to find it outside their own frontiers. This makes a difference which ought to be accepted, even though it is usually ignored' (see Traductions et Traducteurs, 266).


After giving some examples of how the Armenians continued to translate the Lives of the Saints in later centuries, he says: “These few examples, which allow one to guess at a great many others, prove clearly that the line of the great interpreters of the golden age did not cease to perpetuate itself with successors on the soil of Armenia itself. But they are not adequate to account for the large eclecticism and openness of mind to which the amazing variety of the Armenian translations bears witness. This is due to more profound causes, which have too often been overlooked” (ibid., p. 267).


One of the basic explanations of this phenomenon he finds in the widespread diaspora of the Armenian people all along her history: “At all times there were many Armenians outside Armenia. In ancient times, as today, this industrious and enterprising race was to be found on all the commercial routes of the Ancient World and in all the important countries of the East and West. The successive break-ups of the Armenian states added still more to the somewhat unsettled mood of the people. From the beginning of the Byzantine period there were Armenian communities in Persia, in Mesopotamia, in the Holy Land, at Jerusalem, in the Jordan desert, at Aleppo and Antioch and in Cyprus, later, from the tenth century onwards, they lived in Crimea, then in Poland, in Italy, in India, in a word, one could say, everywhere, and this would be accurate without a trace of exaggeration” (ibid., pp. 267-8).


38. I, Hausheer, “Armenienne” (Spiritualite), article in Dictionnaire de la Spiritualite Chretienne , vol. I, col. 875.


The European expert on the Armenian hymns has been Felix-Neve, Professor in the University of Louvain in the last century, who published an impressive volume on the Armenian Christian Literature, three-quarters of which are devoted to the study of the liturgical hymns under the title, L”Hymnoiogie Armenienne. See his L'Armenie Chretienne et sa Litterature , pp. 46-247.


See also N. Ter-Mikaelian, Das armenische Hymnari - um-Studien zu seiner geschichtlichen Entwicklung, Leipzig, 1905.


39. See the English translation of large parts of this liturgical literature in F. C. Conybeare, Rituale Armenorum, Oxford, 1905.


For the history and description of,the Armenian rites and ceremonies see R. Janin, Les Eglises Orienlales et les Rites Orientaux, 4th edition, revised, pp. 313-33, Paris, 1955. See also the English translation.


H. Denzinger, Ritus Orientolium , Coptorum. Syrorum, et Armeniorum , in Administrandis Sacramentis, t. I, Wirceburgi, 1863; I. M. Hanssens, Institutiones Liturgicae De Ritibus Orientalibus, t. II and III, Rome, 1930, 1932; S. Salaville, An Introduction to the Study of Eastern Liturgies, adapted from the French by J. M. T. Barton, London, 1938 (see many articles of the same author in Echos d”Orient, particularly t, XVI (1913), pp. 28-31, t. XXXIX (1941-2), pp. 349-82); Alphonsus Raes, Introductio in Liturgiam Orientalem, Rome, 1947; Archdale A, King, The Rites of Eastern Christendom, vol. II, pp. 521-646, accompanied with a short bibliography.


40. See Zarbhanelian, op. cit., pp. 715-30.


The “Lives of Saints' have been published in Venice by Fr. Mekerdich Avguerian, Complete Lives and Mar- tyrologies of Saints, 1810-15. Twelve volumes.


A French translation of some Armenian texts of the “Lives of Saints” usually read in the Church for moral instruction and exhortation, is to be found in Patrologia Orientalis. The translation is made by Dr. G. Bayan in collaboration with Prince Max of Saxony, Le Synaxaire armenien de Ter Israel- a manuscript in the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris. See t. V, pp. 345-556; t. VI, pp. 181-355; t. XV, pp. 293-438; t. XVI, pp. 1-184; t. XVIII, pp. 1-208; t. XIX, pp. 1-150.


The Armenian hagiographic literature has been the special field of study of the late great Bollandist scholar, R. Paul Peeters. See his articles gathered together in a posthumous edition, under the title Recherches d’Histoire et de Philologie orientales, Bruxelles, 1951. These two volumes contain the articles published in various religious reviews with the exception of Analecta Bollandiana, where thereare several other articles of his pen.


See a very well documented and richly bibliographical essay on the hagiographic literature of the Armenian Church by J. Mecerian, S.J., “Introduction a l”Etude des Synaxaires Armeniens,” in Melanges de VU niversite saint Joseph, t. XXX, Fasc, 4: Bulletin Armenologique, pp. 99-188.


41. Hereto I attach a list of the main historiographers with a selective bibliography of the important translations in foreign languages, largely in French:


Agathangelos (4th-5th century). See V. Langlois, Hist. Arm., vol. I, pp. 97-194.


Phaustus of Byzantium (4th-5th century). See Langlois, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 201-310.


Eghishe (5th century). See Langlois, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 197-251. Another French Translation by M. l’abbe Gr. Kabaragy Garabed, Souleuement National de l’Armenie Chretienne au V e siecle contre la Loi de Zoroastre, Paris, 1844.


A fragmentary English translation by C. F. Neumann, The History of Vartan and of the Battle of the Armenians, London, 1830. A new and complete English translation by D. H. Boyadjian, Yeghisheh: The History of Vartanak , New York, 1952.


Lazar of Pharbi (5th century). See Langlois, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 253-368.


Moses of Chorene (5th century?). See Langlois, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 45-175. Also Le Vaillant de Florival, Histoire de I'Armenie, 2 volumes - the Armenian text with French translation, Paris, 1836.


Sebeos (7th century). See F. Macler, Histoire d’Heraclius par l’eveque Sebeos, Paris, 1904.


Ghevond the Historiographer (8th century). See G. Ghahnazarian, Histoire des Guerres et des Conqutes des Arabes en Armenie, Paris 1856.


Hovhan Catholicos (9th-10th century). See Saint-Martin, Histoire de VArm^nie, published by Layard, Paris, 1841.


Thomas Ardzrouni (9th-10th century). See M. F. Brosset, Collection d”Historiens Armeniens, vol. I, pp. 1-266.


Stephanos Asoghik (lOth-llth century). See E. Dulaurier, Histoire Universelle par Etienne Acoghik de Daron, Paris, 1883- only the first part; the second part is translated by F. Macler, Paris, 1917, preceded by an important introduction.


Oukhtanes (10th century). See M. F. Brosset, Deux Historiens Armeniens, pp. 206-351, St. Petersburg, 1870.


Aristakes Lastivertatsi (11th century). See Prud’Homme, Histoire d’Armenie, Paris, 1864.


Mettheos Ourhayetsi (12th century). See E. Dulaurier, Chronique de Matthieu d”Edesse, Paris, 1858.


Samuel Anetsi (12th century). See M. F. Brosset, Collection d’Historiens Armeniens, vol. II, pp. 339-483.


Vardan Areveltsi (13th century). See J. Muyldermans, “La Domination Arabe en Armenie,” extrait de I”Histoire Uniuerselle de Vardan -Etude de Critique Textuelle det Litteraire, Louvain, 1927.


Kirakos Gantzaketsi (13th century). See M. F. Brosset, Deux Historiens Armeniens , pp. 1-205, St. Petersburg, 1870.


Stepanos Orbelian (14th century). See M. F. Brosset, Histoire de la Siounie, 2 volumes, St. Petersburg, 1864-6.


On the general characteristics of the Armenian historiography and also on some individual writers see Felix- Neve, L’Arm. Chret. et sa Lift., the section entitled

“Des Principaux monuments de la Litterature historique de l”Armenie,” pp. 287-400. Also H. Berberian, “Litterature Armenienne,” pp. 794-5, in Historie des Litteratures (Encyclopedie de la Pleiade), uol. I: Litteratures Anciennes , Orientates et Orales, edited by R. Queneau, pp. 791-802, Paris, 1955.


For the contribution of the Armenian historiographers to the study of the general history see, as an example, the first volume of Recueil des Historiens des Croisades. Documents Armeniens by E. Dulaurier. More than seventeen Armenian writers have been translated in extracts and commented on. Paris, 1869.


For the appreciation of the value of this contribution see the views of some armenologists quoted by H. Thorossian in the Preface of his Histoire de la Litterature Armenienne, pp. 9-14.


42. The best edition is that of Arshak Ter-Mikelian, Etchmiadzin, 1894. Another well known and commonly used edition is the one published in Venice, 1830.


A German translation by J. M. Schmid, Reden und Lehren des heiligen Gregorius des Erleuchters Patriarch von Armenien, Regensberg, 1872. See also another translation, in parts, by E. Sommer and S. Weber, “Augsgewahlte Reden aus dem Hatschachapatoum,' in Ausg. Schr. der Arm. Kirchenvdter, vol. I, pp. 254-318. Here these homilies are ascribed to Mesrop Mashtots. See a short notice in F61ix-Neve, L”Arm. Chret. et sa Litt., pp. 248-55.


43. Published in Venice, 1860.


A German translation by J. Blatz and S. Weber, “Reden des armenischen Kirchenvaters Johannes Mandakuni,” in Ausg. Schr. der Arm. Kirchenvater , vol. II, pp. 50-269.


44. The text is published in Sion (monthly review of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem) by Archbishop Eghishe Tourian (see 1927, pp. 22-5, 61-3).


A French translation by Miss Sirarpi Der-Nersessian who has studied the text scrupulously and commented on it in a masterly way (see “Une Apologie des Images du septieme siecle,” in Byzantion, t. XVII (1944-5), pp. 58-87). Her conclusion, which seems to be above any doubt or contest, is very important for the history of the Iconoclastic movement in the Eastern Church: “C’est ainsi, mais grace aussi au hasard, que la plus ancienne apologie des images addressee a des chretiens, qui se soit conservee, est une oeuvre armfenienne du septieme siècle” (p. 87).


45. The text is published by Vardapet Karekin Hovsepiantz (lately Catholicos of the See of Cilicia, Antelias), Khosrovik Thargmanich and his works, Etchmiadzin, 1903. Reprinted from the review Ararat and preceded by a long introduction.


46. The Armenian text is published in Venice in 1834 accompanied by a Latin translation made by R. P. J. Aucher, Domini Johannis Philosophi Oziensis Armenorum Catholici Opera.


An English translation of the Refutation of the Phantasiasts is made by Leon Arpee in his A History of Arm. Christianity, New York, 1946. See Appendix II, Tractate of John of Otzun against the Phantasiastae, pp. 325-54.


47. The Commentary of the Divine Offices is published in Constantinople 1840. The Exposition of the Prayers of the Liturgy in Venice, 1869.


There is a Latin translation of the latter made by Dr. P. Vetter, Chosroae Magni Episcopi Monophysitici Explicate Precum Missae, E lingua Armeniaca in Latinam

versa, Freiburg, 1880.


See also the article of S. Salaville, “L”Explication de la Messe de l”Armenien Chosrov- Theologie et Liturgie,” in Echos d'Orient, t. XXXIX (1941-2), pp 349-82.


48. His works, especially the Commentaries and many translations from Latin, The Exposition of the Holy Liturgy has gone through various editions. The important ones are (a) the Jerusalem edition, 1842, and (b) the Venice edition, 1847. It is translated into Italian, Alcuini squarci de! Commentario di S. N. Lambronese sulla Liturgia Armeria, Venice, 1851.


See for his life and work J. Karst, “Nerses de Lampron,” article in Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique, t. XI, col. 72-6; cf. H. Thorossian, Hist, de la Lift. Arm., pp. 137-40.


See a short biographical notice in E. Dulaurier, Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Documents Armeniens, t. I, pp. 557-603 accompanied by some extracts of Nerses” ecumenical writings: “Saint Nerses de Lampron- Notice sur sa vie et ses ecrits.”


49. This characterization of his work has been done for the first time in a masterly thesis on Eznik by a well-known French Patristic scholar and armenologist, R. P. Louis Maries, Le De Deo d”Eznik de Kolb - Etudes de Critique Littfiraire et Textuelle, Paris, 1924.


Before him and with a distance of more than fifty years, Eznik”s work had already served another scholar for a thesis, Ernest Mordant, Eznik, Docteur Armenien du Veme siecle. These presentee a la Faculte de Theologie Protestante de Strasbourg pour obtenir le grade de Bachelier en Theologie, Strasbourg, 1868.


50. It is obvious that Eznik did not write this book as a pure theoretical exposition of the Christian doctrine of God. He wrote it rather with a practical purpose, i.e. to refute all the doctrines which were actually and actively present in Armenia through representative persons, schools and sects. “On the one hand, the spiritual need,” writes L. Maries, “aroused partly by the movements of pagan superstition still felt from time to time in the body of the Church, and partly by knowledge of the literatures and, on the other hand, the necessity of combating the pagan authorities which tried by propaganda efforts, both violent and peaceful, to control religious life, acted together and resulted in the production in the Church of S. Gregory of an original apologia of Christian truth. While the nation, troubled to its depth, listened to the mutter of the storm which was continually drawing nearer, in the bishop”s residence at Bagrevand (Eznik is supposed to have been the bishop of the province of Bagrevand in central Armenia), a work of apologetics was coming to completion, which not only remains one of the treasures of Armenian literature, but which, by its penetration of mind, its accumulated knowledge and by its brilliance of style can take place of honour among the intellectual productions of the classical era of the Fathers, I refer to the Refutation of Heresies of Eznik of Kolb” (op. cit., p. 9).


51. One of the values of his book in the sight of the modern Christian scholar lies in this particular aspect of his work, in which many fragments of Church Fathers” writings have been preserved and reached us. Thus, scholars have been able to detect large quotations from Aristides, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Methodius of Olympus, Epiphanius of Salamis, Ephraim Syrus and others. For example, speaking of the Treatise on Free Will of Methodius of Olympus, Quasten says: “It is extensively quoted by Eznik of Kolb, the Armenian apologist of the fifth century, in his Refutation of the Sects, and thus large passages are preserved for us translated into his native language” (Petrology , vol. II, p. 134).


This fact has given the impression that Eznik”s work is devoid of originality. It is sometimes thought of as being simply an amalgamation or a juxtaposition of texts taken from here and there. But the reality is not what it appears to be at first sight. Thus the late P. Louis Maries at the end of his most scrupulous examination of Eznik”s text with the strictly rigorous method of a detailed comparison of it with the works of Christian apologists, says in clear terms and with a definite conviction: “However large are the citations, we have seen that by his way of using them Eznik was able to remain original.” Especially the plan and the whole conception of the work with its unity of thought and purpose are Eznik”s own: “This plan reveals a writer with the instinct of a philosopher and the piety of an intellectualist theologian. We can therefore await with confidence the results of the inquiries of those scholars who are busy tracking down Eznik”s borrowings. We repeat, that even if one could prove that not one stone in the whole edifice was his own, Eznik none-the-less would remain its architect. The simplicity and boldness of the design of this small edifice places it among the most important works of the apologetic literature in this period, whether Greek or Armenian” (op. cit., pp. 92-3; cf. pp. 194-5).



52. See among others the following books and articles:


A. Harnack, Marcion: Das Evangelium vom fremden Gott , Leipzig, 1924. See Texte und Untersuchungen, t. 45.


Jean Riviere, “Un Expose marcionite de la redemption,” in Revue des sciences Religieuses, t. I (1921) pp. 185-207, 297-323.


R. P. Casey, 'The Armenian Marcionites and the Djates- saron, 1 in Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. LVII (1938), pp. 185-94.


C. S. C. Williams, “Eznik”s Resume of Marcionite Doctrine,” in Journal of Theological Studies, vol. XLV (1944), pp. 65-73.


E. C. Blackman, Marcion and His Influence, London, S.P.C.K., 1948.


53. For the first time Eznik”s work was published in Izmir (Smyrna) in 1762. Since then it has gone through many editions, mainly in Venice.


It was first translated into French by Le Vaillant de Florival. Refutation des differentes sectes des Paiens, de la Religion des Perses, de la Religion des Sages de la Grece, de la secte de Marcion, Paris, 1853. The second part of the book, “Against the religion of the Persians,” in V. Langlois, Hist. Arm., vol. II, pp. 375-82. A new and complete translation has been made by the late Pere Louis Maries. Surely it will be the best of all.


A German translation by J. M. Schmid, Des Wardapet Eznik uon Kolb: Wider die Sekten, Vienna, 1900. Another one by S. Weber, Ezniks von Kolb: Wider die Irrlehren. See Armenische Kirchenvdter, vol. I, pp. 25-180, Munich, 1927.


54. This persistent idea of grace in Narekatsi is one of the greatest theological themes in his book. It is not unworthy of attention to note that an Armenian Protestant author suddenly caught by this predominant idea of grace in Narekatsi immediately is brought to think of Calvin, the great teacher of grace in the tradition of the Reformation. Referring to this mystic he says: “Our writer, however, is a Calvinist before Calvin” (Leon Arpee, A Hist, of Arm. Christianity, p. 167). But he is, I believe, the victim of a hasty conclusion, because the doctrine of grace in Narekatsi is neither scriptural (in the technical sense of this word) nor rational, but rather experimental, mystical, as being revealed to him through his own personal touch with the divine and through the taste of its essence and power. Perhaps S. Augustine may be taken as an example to understand the way of mysticism that is found in S. Gregory of Narek. In any case, comparisons cannot help us very much.


55. His work and its value have been noted by European scholars and have won their appreciation and admiration. Thus, in 1886, Felix-Neve was already advocating

the translation of this book into a Western language: “It is, indeed, one of the finest glories of this ancient Church: but so far nothing has been done to make it known in the West. It would be no small service to the sacred literature to translate the works of this great theologian and mystic” (L”Arm. Chrel. et sa Litt., p. 256). See the whole section: “Saint Gregoire de Nareg - Notice litteraire et bibliographique,” pp. 256-68.


J. Karst, another armenologist, looks at S. Narekatsi from the background of the German mysticism in the Western tradition of Christian spirituality. He says: “Gregory of Narek was essentially a philosopher of Christian-Armenian mysticism, the great master and doctor of the contemplative life, comparable with the great mystical theologians of the Western Middle Ages such as S. Bernard, Eckhard, Tauler, Suso. His philosophico-theological teaching- a characteristic it has in common with the German mysticism- is clothed in a language of great poetical charm; and although outwardly in the form of prose, it unfolds in canticles overflowing with fervour” (“Nareg ou Naregatsi,” article in Diclionnaire de Theologie Catholique, t. XI, col. 24).


The literary beauty of this work has attracted recently a French poet, Luc-Andre Marcel, who being deeply caught by its profound poetical power gave, through the help of Armenian scholars and poets in Paris, an extremely graceful translation of some prayers, with a penetrating study, thus creating a widespread interest and admiration of the beauty of Narekatsi”s poetry. See “Gregoire de Narek,” edition des Cahiers du Sud, Paris, 1954. It would be interesting to see where and how Luc-Andre Marcel sees the value of Narekatsi”s poetry. I translate a passage from his Introduction: “Gregory of Narek deserves threefold honours. First, because he is a saint. And it seems that as the curtain falls on the tragedy of six thousand years of our era, it is good to consult all the great spiritual oracles if only by way of forewarning or understanding. Secondly, because he is a great poet, who raises the problem of the efficacy of the poetry in a very acute form. Thirdly, because his work, which is perhaps in this respect unique, for more than nine hundred years had a magic power in the experience of a whole people: this is a phenomenon which proves its surpassing value better than any purely aesthetic valuation” (pp. 19-20).


See also Archag Tchobanian, “Gregoire de Narek,” an article in Mercure de France, November (1900), pp. 369-405. This is a literary analysis of Narekatsi's work with extracts translated into French. Cf. Idem, Poemes Armeniens Anciens et Modernes, Precedes d’une etude de Gabriel Mourey sur La Poesie et I”Art Armeniens, pp. 47-52, Paris, 1902.


Two prayers are included in the text of the Armenian Liturgy. They are said by the priest in secret, behind the curtain, immediately after the Accession to the altar. They may be found in the English translations of the Armenian Liturgy.


A French translation has just appeared for the series of Sources Chretiennes.


There have been several editions of the text. Commentaries have been written in order to expound the profound spiritual treasures of the book. Translations into Modern Armenian have been made in order to make it available to ordinary Armenian Christians. But we cannot go into bibliographical details.


56. Preces Sancti Nersetis Clajensis Armeniorum Patriarchae triginta sex Unguis editae, Venice, 1882.



57. Quoted by Sirarpie Der-Nersessian, Armenia and the Byzantine Empire , p. 43, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1947.


58. See his letter to the Emperor in the Collection of Letters, entitled after his famous Encyclical called Letter General , p. 105, Jerusalem, 1871. Cf. Sirarpie Der-Nersessian, op. cit., chapter II; also my article, “L’Unite Chretienne dans la Tradition de l’Eglise Armenienne,” in Bulletin d” Orientations Oecumeniques, No. 15 (1958) pp. I II.


For the historical account of the negotiations see P. Tekeyan, Controverses Christologiques en Armeno - Cilicie dans la seconde moitie du XII e siecle ( 1 165-98) in the series of Orientalia Christiana Analecta, No. 124, Rome, 1939. This work must be read cautiously, because the author being an Armenian Uniate tends to take a biased view of the negotiations; cf. Ormanian, The Church of Armenia, chapter XIII, “Attempts toward union,” pp. 45-50; Leon Arpee, A History of Armenian Christianity, chapter XI, “Controversies and overtures,” pp. 131-48, particularly pp. 140-8.


So many and so varied are the works of St. Nerses Shnorhali that it is impossible to give a list of them here. Doctrinally and ecumenically the important one is the collection of his letters already referred to.


A Latin translation of his works is made by J. Cappelletti, Sancti Nersetis Clajensis Armeniorum Catholici Opera, nunc primum ex armenio in latinum conversa notisque illustrata studio et labore D. Joseph Cappelleti, Venice, 1833, 2 vols.


A French translation of his exposition of the Armenian doctrine addressed to Manuel the Emperor is to be found in E. Dulaurier, Histoire, Dogmes, Traditions et Liturgie de I'Egise Armenienne Orientate, pp. 49-86, Paris, 1855.


For his literary work see F§Iix-Neve, L'Ann. Chret. et sa Lift., pp. 269-86: “Le Patriarche Nerses IV dit Schnorhali ou Ie Gracieux”- envisage comme ecrivain; cf. Thorossian, Hist de la Lilt. Arm., pp. 132-7.


59. The whole importance of this work may be detected from a judgment on its value by an Armenian Uniate writer: 'The books of this author, according to Mgr. Somal, which fate has preserved to us, are totally lacking in beauty, but rich in errors; their eternal oblivion would be an advantage for the Armenian literature and

Church” (see I. Hausherr, “Armenienne” (Spiritualite), in Diet, de la Spiritualite, t. I, col. 873; quoted from P. S. Somal, Quadro della Storia literaria di Armenia, Venice, 1829).


60. However his approach to the authority in theology may be interesting to quote: “Now, the foundation of this work,” he writes in the preface of his book, “shall rest upon the immovable rock Christ. And the whole structure shall be fortified by four pillars, the first erected by the apostolic preaching, the second by the prophetical witness, the third by the truth as elucidated by commentators, and the fourth by my readers” truth loving assent” (quoted and translated by Leon Arpee, A History of Armenian Christianity, p. 177).


61. The Book of Questions has been published only once (Constantinople, 1729). Two other volumes also have been published of the same author. They are Collections of Sermons, mostly of doctrinal content and of polemical character, containing more than three hundred sermons on all the themes of Christian doctrine and moral teaching.


No serious attempt has been made to study them thoroughly and against the background of the Western Scholasticism of the time, which is absolutely necessary for the understanding of S. Gregory”s literary and theological heritage.


No translation of any of his works is known to me.


A brief account of his theology may be found in Leon Arpee op. eit., chapter XIV, “Gregory of Datev and the Armenian Summa,” pp. 175-86.

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